MLB Preview: Which Team Will Be The Biggest Surprise In 2019?
This is one of 10 burning questions in our 2019 MLB season preview. To see all of our bold predictions, click here. All answers to the question are from Baseball America’s editorial team.
Ted Cahill: Blue Jays. If Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette are the impact players they’re expected to be, Toronto could make two significant additions to its lineup in the season’s first half. If Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez bounce back from the injuries that hampered them last season and Ryan Borucki builds on his strong rookie season, the Blue Jays have the makings of a strong pitching staff. It unlikely will be enough to contend in the stout AL East, but Toronto can make a big jump this year.
Carlos Collazo: Padres. Projections swing and miss most frequently with young players who have little to no track record in the big leagues, and San Diego, even with superstar Manny Machado in the fold, should get major contributions from talented rookies, including Fernando Tatis, Luis Urias, Francisco Mejia and Chris Paddack. Both Franmil Reyes and Hunter Renfroe have shown offensive potential and could take steps forward, while bounce-back years from Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer could give San Diego a solid lineup. There are plenty of questions here, particularly on the mound, but there’s intriguing potential as well.
J.J. Cooper: Twins. Minnesota is one of the few American League teams that clearly improved over the offseason, with a big addition (Nelson Cruz) and a solid buy-low option (Jonathan Schoop). Getting Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano back on the field and productive is just as important as any free agent signing. The Twins also have a number of prospects who could step up and contribute as the season wears on. In a division where the Indians have gotten worse and no one else has taken a giant step forward, Minnesota is a sleeper playoff candidate.
Matt Eddy: White Sox. Chicago has young major leaguers with untapped potential, including middle infielders Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson and young starters Carlos Rodon and Reynaldo Lopez. The White Sox also have prospects who could factor in 2019, from Eloy Jimenez and Nick Madrigal in the lineup to Dylan Cease and Dane Dunning in the rotation. I could see things heading north much faster than expected on the South Side, especially if the White Sox were to add a premium free agent bat.
Kyle Glaser: Reds. With a stellar offseason that included adding Yasiel Puig, Cincinnati now owns one of the National League’s best and deepest lineups and a quietly solid pitching staff. The rotation is much improved, the back of the bullpen is strong and there is enviable depth of both position players and pitchers. A huge step forward for the franchise is in store.
Kegan Lowe: Nationals. The Phillies and Mets stole many of the offseason headlines, the up-and-coming Braves are fresh off an ahead-of-schedule division title and the Nationals appear destined to lose their franchise player in Bryce Harper. Perhaps a lack of preseason expectations will be a nice change of pace for the Nationals.
Josh Norris: Rays. They have the reigning AL Cy Young winner, a possible breakout starter in Tyler Glasnow, young, talented players like Willy Adames, Joey Wendle and Austin Meadows scattered across the diamond with more just a call away in Triple-A. With the Red Sox exacerbating their only weakness from 2018 by losing Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly from their already leaky bullpen, this might be the time for the Rays to strike and claim a spot in the postseason for the first time since 2013.